Father Christopher Jamison, the author of Finding Sanctuary is the Abbot of Worth, a Benedictine Abbey located in Sussex, England. With Jamisonís support, the BBC produced an unusual TV series, The Monastery, in 2005. This reality program consisted of a forty day immersion of five diverse men into the world of Benedictine spirituality. Their exposure to the daily routine of Benedictine life became an inquiry if Christian monasticism had anything substantial to contribute to the ambiguities of modern society.
The premise of the work is that each of us is called to create a sanctuary space in the midst of our everyday busyness and distractions. Finding Sanctuary is Abbot Jamison's subsequent reflection on the beneficial and surprising experiences of these five men as they encountered abbey living. Here is the heart of the book, which provides a critique of culture and religion by blending personal story, contemporary trends, desert tradition, Buddhist monasticism, the insights of Thomas Merton, Lectio Divina and, of course, The Rule of St. Benedict.
There is much food for thought and prayer as Jamison details counter-cultural chapters on silence, contemplation, obedience, humility, community, spirituality and hope. In his explanation of each of these qualities of a Benedictine-informed life, he assists us to assess our own spiritual awkwardness, states of denial and compromise, lack of religious depth and avoidance of conversion. Whatever might be our failings or foibles, Jamison supports us in creating a meaningful and theologically grounded sanctuary for everyday living. Each chapter ends with helpful web page reference and pertinent book for additional reading.
Does Sanctuary offer anything new or fresh that perhaps other books on monasticism overlook? The answers are both yes and no. Yes, in the sense that Jamison's approach is quite contemporary and incorporates the BBC's The Monastery. Packaged together, they can be used for a retreat, discussion group, or as elements of a class on monastic spirituality. No, in that some might object that Sanctuary is male biased, stemming as it does from a population of only monks and laymen. While the reality of this experimentís setting is masculine, the wisdom of Sanctuary, like The Rule, calls for on-going adaptation and creative revision.